From One Basket Case to Another

Over the summer, I was lucky enough to be invited to the private view of the City Lit Basket Course, which was a culmination of work by students over the last two years. Unsurprisingly this was quite a substantial and impressive collection of work. I have to admit my naïvety here, as I really had no idea that basketry could be so creative. The course, though advertised for beginners, appeared to cater for many levels, as there were returning basketers, who have been doing it for years.

My aunt, Christiane

My reason for attending the (very hot!) private view was that my aunt has been a student there these past two years, so I was keen to see her accomplishments, and I am duely bias in thinking hers were, of course, the best! So without further delay, here are some of my favourites…

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This amazing beast of a basket by Christiane Gunzi (my aunt!) came from exploring the effect of the environment on local woodland, in particular the great storm of 87′ and the change it caused in the growth of trees. Once the storm had hit, the woods grew erratically and all over the place. The precursor to this basket was an incredibly neat and perfectly formed one, representing the natural formulaic layout of the wood.

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This extraordinary piece was called Paradise House, by Anita Vozik. I thought if it was made larger, it would be an excellent garden escape pod, but it did have a more serious meaning as it was representing a hay bale, the gap being a scythe cut. Anita is Hungarian, and that is their traditional method of cutting and storing hay.

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Janice Brooklyn – A fellow book enthusiast, and past attendee of the University of the Arts London. These are amazing basket woven paper creations, I could easily have a few of these on my wall!

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This upside down porcupine was made by Karen Lawrence, and definitely another favourite of mine. All the little spikes are made from cable ties and must have taken an age to weave in! It was one of a large collection of Karen’s baskets, all of which were incredibly impressive.

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This collection by Christiane Sans (another Christiane, but not my aunt!) was more abstract than the previously ones shown here, but equally as fascinating. The materials she used appeared to be more salvage than the regular cane, but I did not have a chance to ask her about them.

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Gail Romanes – These were definitely another favourite of mine, there must be something about miniature things that makes you love them just for being small! They were tiny and perfect!

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And finally, Gareth Williams’. I believe Gareth was a returning basketer, who has obviously developed an amazing skill in the craft over the years. These reminded me of something by Escher!

I have included websites where I have them (only one I think), but have grained from plastering people’s email addresses all over the web. However if you would like to get in touch with any of these basket cases, let me know and I can put you in contact.

aMAZEme at the Southbank Centre

This week The Man and I had one of our “Luke & Maudie’s Fun Day Out”. I love these days, they are filled with enjoyable meandering, varied and regular pub visits (preferably trying out new ones) and generally having an enjoyable fun day.

The Saturday just gone was one of these days, this time along the Southbank – one of my favourite parts of London, and if you have not been recently, or are due to visit London soon, I cannot suggest it strongly enough to visit. It’s fabulous all year round, come Christmas there will be hundreds of little markets and lights on all the trees. But this time of the year is a time for drinking outside and picking up the sunshine amongst the London cloud – its wonderful!

The Propstore was the first stop – a bar just outside the National Theatre, which is one of these pop-up bars that will be there until the end of September. It’s made from old bits of scenery from the theatre and supplies micro-brewery beers including a very nice pale ale!

We also popped into the The Royal Festival Hall (another favourite), and managed to see a fantastic exhibition called aMAZEme. It’s been created by Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo and is based on the concepts of Art & Literature, Entertainment and Generosity. It is a collection of books built up into a maze in the shape of a fingerprint and really is great. It is one of these rare exhibitions where you can get involved, the phrase is “feel free to pick up the books and have a read, but please replace them for others to enjoy” – how great is that?!

I thoroughly enjoyed it, there isn’t much like being surrounded by walls of books, so I strongly suggest anyone in and around London goes and has a look, and possibly a pint on the river – can’t get much better than that!

Some books were in need of conservation!

I remember this book from when I was a kid!

The Beauty of Edinburgh

Well I know this one is a little late in coming, but life seems to be running away with me at the moment! Just before Easter, I spent two glorious weeks in Edinburgh in Scotland. Despite being only a train journey away, this was the first time I have ever been to Edinburgh, and indeed Scotland mainland (I have been to the Isle of Arran – also beautiful!), and glorious is a good word to describe the city, it was absolutely amazing. I didn’t even manage to see all of the attractions and was still blown away by the pure beauty of the city itself.

I have always been keen on architecture and interesting old buildings – the ones that peek my interest the most are the ones that look like they could be riddled with secret passages that might have been used in days past for romantic interludes or unsolved murders! Well Edinburgh may be the epicentre of these types of buildings, especially as it seems every other building was the site of the murder of one of Mary Queen of Scots secret lovers! It reminded me of something from The Gormenghast Trilogy, which if you have managed to read (it is a task), you might also see the similarities.

Being a city many built on a hill, it appeared that everywhere was built on top of each other – full five storey buildings were built on top of other five storey buildings, making what looked a bit like medieval skyscrapers with tiny passageways and stairs between them. As I say it was amazing!

I was there for two weeks on a placement with the National Library of Scotland, who had very kindly agreed to take me on for two weeks in their conservation department. The library itself is accessed on the George IV bridge, at which point you appear to be entering a fairly normal five storey institute style building, only to find that you are on floor 11 and the whole building has 15 storeys – it was a bit mind boggling to say the least!

Anyway, aside from the two week placement and the fascinating architecture, I did manage to visit a few of the sites with The Man (he came up for the weekend in the middle) and some of the pubs. The main street in the old part of town is called the Royal Mile, joining both Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, which is the official residence of The Queen when visiting the city.

We managed to visit the castle at the top of the hill and had a tour in the sun – they do an excellent cream tea – and also walk up the giant hill in Holyrood Park. Anyway, enough of gabbling, I cannot suggest visiting enough it was truly beautiful and here and here are some pictures and I will follow up shortly with some more subject specific information on the placement itself!

A visit to the Museum of Childhood

I’ve just spent a fabulous morning at the Museum of Childhood having a look for books for my MA project, thanks to Catherine at the museum and Jane at the V&A, I am hopefully going to be taking a book from this museum and working on it under Jane’s supervision at the V&A – very exciting!! Pictures of the chosen book will hopefully come soon!

In the meantime, I did have a peruse of the shelves in the museum itself and felt like I had stepped back in time and onto the playground at my primary school! So here are some pics if you remember any of them!

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This little monster plagued my best friend for much of her youth!

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I still have this doll somewhere!

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And one of these, I think it’s going on eBay at some point soon…

A conservator’s visit to Tate Britain

Unfortunately I have no photos as I don’t seem to be all here at the moment, so I have included a standard picture from the web!

Tate Britain - © visitlondonimages/ britainonview

We were given an introduction into the conservation department at the Tate Britain by Charity Fox who is part of the conservation team and heavily involved in both conservation of works of art on paper and working with other galleries so items can go on exhibition and on loan.

The latter seemed like quite a long complex process of meetings and careful planning, but this really is only natural when you are talking about a Turner watercolour being loaned out. The department has a tally showing exactly how many days a piece has been on show that year, and how many are left before it has to go into a rest period, so it all seemed extremely organised. We were lucky enough to be shown a small Turner that was in for conservation as the iron gall ink used on part of the painting was burning through the paper – Amazing!

We were also taken into the framing department who design and build frames for all the works. There are standard frames for different era’s – for example anything after around 1920 goes into a modern ash frame.

Very interesting and I’m now looking forward to going back to see the actual gallery as I haven’t been for years!

 

A field trip to Parliament

Due to the restrictions on taking photographs at the house of lords, I only have the one picture below, which is unfortunately not great quality – but hey ho, but that than nothing!

We met Caroline Babington and Lara Artemis whilst at the Houses of Lords, who are the Collections Care Managers for Paintings and Archives.

Caroline gave us a tour through some of the key rooms at the House of Lords, which was fascinating. Being a paintings specialist, Caroline gave us an insight into some Englands most prestigious frescos, which is one of the biggest collections in Europe.

Later Lara took us through the conservation and binding studios, which were part of the Queen Victoria Tower and were wonderful. Their approach to conservation has changed over the years concentrating more on preservation management in the last few years as a method to sustain the heritage of the collection as it stands at the moment. We also got a visit to the Act store, which you will often see in TV programmes – again no photographs sadly as it was an absolutely incredible store.